EDGAR WALLACE
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Crossroads to Crime 5*
1 The Twisted Candle 4*
2 Marriage of Convenience 6*
3 The Malpas Mystery 5*
4 The Man who was Nobody 4*
5 Clue of New Pin 6*
6 Partners in Crime 5*
7 The Fourth Square 3*
8 Man at the Carlton Tower 4*
9 Clue of Silver Key 7*
10 Attempt to Kill 5*
11 Man Detained 5*
12 Never Back Losers 5*
13 The Sinister Man 7*
14 Candidate for Murder 5*
15 Backfire 5*
16 The Share Out 6*
17 Flat Two 5*
18 Number Six 6*
19 Time to Remember 6*
20 Locker 69 2*
21 Playback 5*
22 Solo for Sparrow 8*
23 Death Trap 4*
24 The Set Up 6*
25 The 20,000 Pound Kiss 4*
26 Incident at Midnight 2*
27 On the Run 5*
28 Return to Sender 5*
29 Ricochet 5*
30 The Double 4*
31 The Rivals 5*
32 To Have and to Hold 7*
33 The Partner 3*
34 Accidental Death 6*
35 Five to One 8*
36 Downfall 6*
37 The Verdict 7*
38 We Shall See 2*
39 Who was Maddox? 5*
40 Act of Murder 6*
41 Face of a Stranger 7*
42 Never Mention Murder 4*
43 The Main Chance 5*
44 Game for Three Losers 2*
45 Change Partners 7*
46 Strangler's Web 6*
47 Dead Man's Chest 1*
Picture- #21

This series of films was made for the cinema at Merton Park Studios.
In early 1960, it was announced that Anglo Amalgamated had acquired the rights to ninety Edgar Wallace stories and had arranged for two companies to make them into films. The Film Producers' Guild at Merton Park with Jack Greenwood as producer were to make twenty, while Independent Artists with Julian Wintle and Leslie Parkyn were scheduled to make thirty. In fact the only one the latter made was #3, at Beaconsfield Studios, and it was Merton Park who went on to make about forty genuine Edgar Wallace stories.
The standard varies according to the scriptwriter and director, but the best are very good indeed.
Strictly speaking, the first listed (Crossroads to Crime) was not part of this series, though when the series was screened on television, it had added to it the Edgar Wallace haunting opening sequence with the bust of the great thriller writer. Most of the later films (from #40 on) were similarly included in this tv screening, though they do not have the bust of Edgar in the opening titles.

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The Man Who Was Nobody
The third film of the series made at Merton Park, filmed in the summer of 1960. Director: Montgomery Tully.

A story that would be nothing without Hazel Court. She plays a female private detective, a novelty to be sure, but as she fades from the second half of the plot, the reason for the whole drama disintegrates.
James Tynewood pays a jeweller 8,500 for "no finer stone in London." A bounced cheque and other unpaid accounts and Tynewood goes missing. Private investigator Miss Marjorie Steadman is engaged by his solicitor to find him before the police do. "South Africa Smith is coming back," is the cryptic message she must relay to him.
Starting in Beatnik Chelsea, she traces Alma (Lisa Daniely), the model Tynewood had taken with him to the shop. No sooner has Steadman set up observation of Alma's from a nearby mews flat, than Tynewood is found strangled in the river. But why? The jeweller had just been paid- by an unknown person. End of case?
The enigmatic 'Smith' appears. "Where exactly do you fit into all this?" is Marjorie's pertinent question. "Trust me," is all she's going to get out of him.
Alma is followed round several pubs getting progressively more drunk. Marjorie pals up with her. "She's scared of what she knows," Marjorie observes to Smith later.
At the gambling house where Alma had first been seen, Smith uses a diamond as collateral to the owner, the evil Franz (Paul Eddington). Smith unhelpfully informs Marjorie, "when it's all over I'll explain it to you."
It's all to do with ths diamond cutting machinery Franz has hidden away in his cellar. Franz offers Smith a pittance and they fight. Police swoop to save Smith and Miss Steadman. "He murdered James Tynewood!" Smith reveals his motives
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Backfire! (1961)
Script: Robert Stewart. Director: Paul Almond. Plenty of beaty background music.

Ben Curzon, boss of Venetia, a cosmetics firm, has recruited the Logans (Alfred Burke and Zena Marshall). He's a new "big ideas man", she is a "beauty expert." But now, thanks to their dubious enterprises, the place is getting into the red. Richmond Chemicals are owed a lot of money, and payment is demanded after the weekend.
Logan's solution is to call in Kyser, who gets his own theme tune- he "arranges things." In particular, fires. Curzon doesn't want to employ this "madman" but with the insurance money of a quarter of a million, what choice has he? "Noone is going to get hurt," Logan assures him.
But as ever, it's the unforeseen that happens. Whilst Kyser prepares to drool over his handiwork, a couple of hitches come to the surface. Mrs Logan has left her new 7,000 mink coat at the factory, not insured. Logan risks it, and returns to the factory. But a second problem- Mrs Tenko the cleaner is working late. She looks puzzled when she spots the arsonist's equipment. Logan has to silence her.
The fire!
Brice, the insurance investigator, at first blames the cleaning lady. But sitting in his rubble, Curzon broods with his daughter over the conflagration. He resolves to tell Brice the truth. "Hes cracking up," observes the heartless Mrs Logan, very obviously.
Another 'accident,' Curzon's of course, which the coroner declares is suicide.
Curzon's daughter overhears Kyser discussing his payment with Logan. She informs Brice, and justice is done.

Oliver Johnston gives the story integrity with his sympathetic portrayal of an old man caught up in a crime he didn't want to commit. Alfred Burke struggles with his semi-American accent and Zena Marshall is wasted. This is a good story that sadly tails off with a disappointing ending

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Solo for Sparrow (1962)
Director: Gordon Flemyng.

Last to lock up at Reynolds a jewellers shop, is old Miss Martin, who is followed on her homeward train to Harland by a nasty looking bunch of crooks. They are led by Norman (Michael Coles), and his motley crew also include Barney (a young Michael Caine). Miss Martin never reaches home as she is bustled in to their car. Her keys are stolen, enabling the thieves to help themselves to the safe. It all goes very smoothly, with the slight exception that the unfortunate Miss Martin dies.
"It's a case for Scotland Yard isn't it?" but local detective Inspector Sparrow (Glyn Houston) wants to pursue his own offbeat line of inquiry. However it's the man from the Yard who asks the most pertinent question, "would you trust an old lady to lock up?" Apparently Reynolds has a heart problem, so he had delegated the task to her.
Sparrow is given ten day's leave. But his idea of a holiday is try and solve this crime! At least he can do so without any interference from the Yard. He takes his girl friend, who quaintly calls him "Sparrow," for a day out, to spy on Reynolds (Anthony Newlands). Fortunately for her, they're not sitting in the car all day, for Reynolds is going out- at that point, to avoid being seen, Sparrow gives her a nice kiss. The day improves further, for Reynolds goes to an expensive country club where Reynolds plays tennis, while Sparrow and his girl enjoy lunch.
"Bending the law a little," he persuades for a small time crook to tap Reynolds' phone. A little more 'bending' when he calls Reynolds up anonymously, claiming he knows all about the safe job. Reynolds is "scared," and he contacts his confederates to come and discuss the situation at the Horse and Groom. But Reynolds never turns up as his wife, who definitely wears the pants, orders him to go out with her. The crooks realise what Sparrow has been up to and kidnap him. Helpfully Norman reveals Mrs Reynolds is the brains behind the theft. It looks like The End but Sparrow craftily sets up a booby trap, an electrified bed, which kills his guard and thus he can get away. But not far as Norman and his cronies turn up for a chase round a farmyard in a too improbable gunfight. A defenceless chicken accounts for Barney, before the police arrive slightly later than on cue to arrest the rest of the gang.

Glyn Houston helps make a fairly routine drama memorable

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Ricochet (1963)
In real snow, Citroen 451 XPP drives up to Oakwood Cottage. Alighting is Yvonne (Maxine Audley), and she's watched by a stranger lurking in the shrubbery. Scared, she runs indoors. She gets her husband Alan to phone Ashtead police.
Alan meets a man called John Brodie at a skating rink. Alan knows he had an affair with his wife. He wants John to blackmail her for 200 for some compromising letters she wrote to him. Alan pays for a room in the nearby Swan Hotel where Alan can have a clandestine meeting with her. Here, he shoots John! Only blanks though. The idea is John has to goad Yvonne into shooting him with the blanks, and thinking she's killed him, more blackmail can follow.
The plan is carried through faultlessly, John demands 2,000 and is shot, but with real bullets as we've guessed. Yvonne returns home to find the grim Inspector Cummings waiting for her. Alan makes a good pretence and blurts out a half-hearted confession. But Yvonne has to admit she killed John, even though it was an accident.
Now it's Alan's turn for a shock. He's nastily laughing to himself at his success, when there's a knock at his door. "You've been expecting me," Peter Dexter (Dudley Foster) tells him. He was John's partner and knows all about Alan's scheme. He's even got a tape recording of them hatching the plot- cough up 5,000.
Next day, Alan meets Peter at the ice rink. Alan gets the tape recording back and produces a gun. But the police swoop. In a good twist, Peter sorrowfully explains to Alan that Yvonne had persuaded him with 10,000 to tell the police.
A tale with plenty of nice twists. Maxine Audley is largely wasted.

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Five to One (1963)

Which is the best film in the Wallace series? This must be a strong candidate.

Roger Marshall's story begins at a posh country club where Alan Roper (John Thaw) and Larry Hart (Lee Montague) discuss the latter laundering the proceeds of a 60,000 robbery. At Larry's usual rate of 5-1 that means Roper will be paid 12,000 of the "most anonymous money you ever saw."
Roper's meticulous plans unfold:
1. Blackmail. Deighton, an insurance worker, is caught with Roper's girlfriend in a compromising position. "I don't want your money." He is forced to reveal information about Larry himself.
2. Disable the burglar alarm at Larry's betting shop. Mate John does this part of the operation.
3. John buys some 'plastic' at Elmbrook Garage.
Yes, the 12,000 that Larry is collecting as payment is, as Roper explains, "so we can rob Him." After doctoring the milk bottles on Larry's posh doorstep, Alan and John find Larry and his wife later that night nicely drugged. While the married couple doze in bed ("wonder if it was the sleeping pills or the television"), the bedroom safe is quietly opened and an impression of his keys is taken.
Then a fake raid on the betting shop to persuade Larry to keep the 12,000 payoff in his safe at home. All very subtle and complex, you can't blame John for wanting to make it all a lot simpler!
It's the night of the robbery. But the best laid plans can go wrong, and though Larry is safely seen off the scene, they hadn't allowed for his wife to be in bed still. Her they tie up and she can only watch helplessly as Alan and John open the safe. But it won't open. Larry's been ultra-careful and changed the combination that they had taken so much pains to learn! Consternation. So Alan devises Plan B.
Larry returns home in his flash sports car and when he sees the place in a mess, rushes to check his safe. At this point he's bashed on the head and the safe is finally emptied of its contents.
But the crooks never get away, the police are waiting. Roper made one fatal slip

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We Shall See (1964)

No bust of EW in the titles - probably he was turning in his grave over this feeble effort.

A scream. A frightenend lady. But it's only a bee! She's scared of bees. Neurotic Alva Collins (Faith Brook) insists her airline pilot husband Evan doesn't go to work today. They have another of their rows and he storms off, "she used to be so gay."
Evan drives to the airport far too fast, he is so angry, and crashes into a lorry. Alva ungraciously visits him in hospital hoping to persuade him that his job as "an aerial bus driver" is over.
She'd been driven to see him by her brother Greg, who is only after her for the money he believes he's owed from their parents' inheritance. While she is away, Greg rifles the house for his late mother's key which will open a safe deposit, and which Alva has hidden.
Evan recovers in hosptal, no thanks to his wife, more to charming Nurse Rosemary Latham. Rather extraordinarily, he now learns his wife is a psychopath. Apparently he'd never guessed.
Alva has another 'enemy,' apart from Evan and Greg. That's Ludo her gardener, who is found keeping bees by Alva, and is sacked forthwith. Jirina, Ludo's daughter, who has a crush on Evan, also hates her, "I would like to see those bees all over her," is her rather unpleasant idea.
Alva finally leaves Evan, on the eve of his trial for dangerous driving. In court, Evan receives support from his boss Tom, as well as the besotted nurse. Thankfully, a charge of drunk driving is dropped, since Evan was not drunk, he only smelled of drink since Alva had thrown her booze over his pilot's uniform. But surprise surprise, Alva rolls into court to create a scene, insisting he definitely was tiddly.
Afterwards, Evan finds consolation in Rosemary. Will he ever escape her persecution? "It's got to be," he announces enigmatically.
Alva is gone to stay at the Gatwick Manor Inn. We all know what's going to happen to her. Yes. A swarm of bees are introduced into her room. It's like Hitch's The Birds only it's The Bees. Enter the police with the brilliant deduction, "everyone here had some reason for wishing Mrs Alva Collins out of the way." But which of them had the nerve, or perhaps decency, to do it?
Even the final surprise can't pull the sting out of a story that is too fearfully tedious in its build up to its predictable climax. I suppose the final dull scenes showing the unfolding of the characters' various relationships are appropriate this disappointing drama

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Act of Murder (1964)
Director: Alan Bridges

Interesting opening titles (no Edgar's bust) with a gradually opening door that slams shut at the conclusion of the opening titles. An absorbing story that goes off in an unexpected direction but can't reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Ex-actress Ann Longman (Justine Lord) is a "garden-loving housewife in ye olde country cottage." With husband Ralph (Anthony Bate) she has settled down into the country idyll, but has arranged a house swap to enjoy a fortnight in London W1, so they can see some plays in town. Actor Tim (John Carson), an old friend, is keen for her to do more than watch them, he wants her to return to acting in them.
The Petersons (Duncan Lewis and Dandy Nichols) are the couple the Longmans have swapped with, on beneficial terms to the former. As soon as the Longmans have departed they ransack the home of its antiques, taken away by dealer Mr Quick. But their plans go awry when Tim calls. He's suspicious and we next see him waiting for the Longman's to return....
The Peterson's address in John's Street London proves to be false. Ralph and Ann drive home fearing the worst, but everything is untouched, nothing stolen after all, no sign of the Petersens. They do find Ann's plants all poisoned and Zipper the dog is missing.
"Weird," declares Ann. What does it mean? "I have a feeling," she continues, "whatever it was, they've already done it." In the light of day next morning they find all their chickens dead. And Zipper. And their budgie. When Tim's informed he thinks it "voodooish." He says he never actually met the Petersens.
Ann becomes more and more withdrawn and leaves for "mummy." But really it's Tim. Though there's nothing between them, Tim wants there to be! But Ralph does disapprove when Ann obtains an acting role, something she had hankered after.
Ralph does some detecting and finds Mr Quick, the fence to whom the Petersons had originally planned to sell the Longman's antiques. On his premises is a gravestone engraved with the name of Mr Peterson. Ralph forces him to admit they had all planned the robbery, but "this bloke" had stopped them in their tracks and killed Peterson. What had Tim been up to?
Even Ralph can work this one out. Arriving at Tim's flat he discovers his wife in pyjamas, she has finally succumbed, in her words "a fallen woman."
"Ralph, I didn't," she begins but he's too busy chasing after Tim.
The film's clever-clever finish isn't convincing, a pity because it had all started with great promise

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Never Mention Murder (1964)
Nicely done titles, but this Robert Banks Stewart script has no connection with Edgar Wallace. Director: John Nelson Burton.

Honeymoon Island (though I think it's actually only Newhaven) has some new arrivals, one is watching a speed boat with Tony and Liz (Maxine Audley trying to do an Audrey Hepburn). He is a private detective Felix Carstairs, who takes his photos and tape recording to Liz's husband Dr Phil Teasdale (Dudley Sutton). He is a local man, a heart surgeon, while Liz spends her spare time painting, that is when she's not having it off with Tony.
Tony Sorbo is the hotel entertainer, he does a mind reading act with Zita his wife (Pauline Yates).
Having been told of his wife's infidelity, our unhippocratic doctor introduces some foreign powder into Tony's anti-smoking tablets. Tony collapses in the middle of his performance. Teasdale just happens to be on call, so rushes on the scene, "we'll give you something to help you sleep," he tells Tony. To Zita he adds "an operation may be necessary." Of course it is. He says he has to insert a cardiac catheter. Or something. So in Theatre No 3 it's on with the surgical gloves, and we all know what he's preparing to do next. But an unscheduled batch of students appear to watch him at work, so Teasdale announces after a lot of poking about, "I want to take a closer look in a few days." No doubt when less eyes are upon him.
Now the private eye makes a reappearance, asking a bewildered Zita if she'd like to buy his dossier on Tony. But when Carstairs gets the whole picture, he sees more profit, and has "a little chat" at Signal Point with his earlier client Teasdale, demanding 1,000 for starters. But afters for Carstairs is a dose of chloroform. The mini he's been driving is then pushed over the cliff. He's inside.
Troubles never come singly, and now it's Zita Sorbo who's giving Liz a few eyeopeners about her husband's activities. As Tony's second operation starts, a policeman (Philip Stone) enters the theatre, Stop the Operation is almost what he says, though he says it more staidly, "I have reason to believe the patient is in danger." But he'll be in a worse fix if Teasdale doesn't continue with the operation. Under the watchful eyes of the law, what can go wrong? Plenty for Dr Teasdale...

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Change Partners (1965)

I like this story about Anna (Zena Walker at her nasty worst) who goads her disillusioned lover Ricky into doing something about their relationship which is marred by the fact that they are both married. "Supposing Ben and Betty were found in circumstances pointing to an affair," the dominant Anna suggests to the helpless Ricky. He wonders what she might mean by "found."
Her evil plan is to get Betty to drive the perennially drunk Ben home from a shareholder's meeting in their car, which Ben must tamper with. So Betty droves Ben home, parking the Rover in the integral garage. The engine refuses to switch off, and what's worse, Anna is lurking nearby and slams the door shut. Outside, Anna hangs around impassionately, as Betty chokes to death. Ben's too drunk to notice.
"Pull yourself together," Anna warns Ben, whose conscience is troubling him. But what they don't know is that all this time a young impecunious couple, Joe and Jean, have been spying on them at their secret trysts, and Joe now announces himself on the doorstep demanding a little "insurance." Anna fobs him off, convincing Joe that Ben and Betty were also lovers. Garage Suicide Pact reads the headlines, which seems to confirm Anna's tale.
"We got away with it," repeats Anna grinning at the nervous Ricky. But Joe has realised it doesn't add up and demands "a couple of thousand" plus "fifty a week" from Ricky. In a panic, he obeys Anna's command to come to The White Hart where Joe is living it up with his girl. He's in the money now. "When he comes out, you follow him," Anna orders Ricky. Drive him off the road is all he has to do. A doubtful Ricky carries out her instructions.
"I almost enjoyed it," he tells her afterwards, "it worked like a charm." We have just witnessed that familar shot of a car plunging in flames over a cliff.
The story is an excellent parable of a character drawn deeper and deeper into the mire. Of course it's still not all over. Joe had been two-timing Jean, who now phones the weak link Ricky, to shock him, "you're not getting away with it."
Anna intervenes, in a barbed scene which ends with her trying to fob Jean off with monetary compensation.
"There's no end to it," moans the beaten Ricky.
"All the spine's gone out of you," Anna snaps at him. Leave the country is their only option left, but instead, he locks himself in the garage and turns on the ignition. Anna doesn't get away either

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